Sunday, February 15, 2015

Athens must stand firm against the eurozone’s failed policies

by Wolfgang Münchau

Financial Times

February 15, 2015

The Greek finance minister can expect a frosty reception on Monday where he will confront his eurozone colleagues in another ‘high noon’ European showdown . My advice to Yanis Varoufakis would be to ignore the exasperated looks and veiled threats and stand firm. He is a member of the first government in the eurozone with a democratic mandate to stand up to an utterly dysfunctional policy regime that has proved economically illiterate and politically unsustainable. For the eurozone to survive with the current geographic remit, this regime needs to go.

Of course, for Greece to stand up to the EU policy elites is risky. The consequences of a failure to agree a deal have to be well understood. Greece might risk a financial collapse, and with it a forced exit from the eurozone. The concrete issue under discussion is a new loan to Athens to cover its funding needs for the next few months. The argument is not really about the money. It would only take a couple of economists in a pub with a pencil and a few beer mats to do the sums.

The dispute is about the packaging. The Greeks want a simple bridging loan combined with an implicit acknowledgment that the previous support programmes have failed. Others disagree. The Germans support austerity on ideological grounds. The Portuguese oppose any deal for Greece as they have taken their austerity medicine and did not stage an insurrection. And the Lithuanians are saying: we are even poorer than you are. Why should we bail you out? And so on.


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